“Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.”
This iconic phrase kept reverberating in my head during the course of New York Fashion Week, beginning with the notion of melding the old with the new. There are new old stores (Saks Downtown), new main floors in 111 year old stores (Bergdorf Goodman) and there’s been a new mood and flavor in this past week of presentations. In addition to the insertion of politics into the proceedings (specifically, the upcoming Presidential election), they’ve generally been more scaled down, more intimate, and in some cases, they’ve been moved from indoors to outdoors.Kanye West, Rebecca Minkoff, Mike Eckhaus, and Ralph Lauren are among those who took advantage of the glorious September weather which is clearly something that cannot be counted on in February.
Ralph Lauren, who will be 77 this October, is the oldest designer to show, and the wealthiest (the only other two billionaires are Diane Von Furstenberg and Tory Burch). Proving age is nothing more than a number, he staged what was his strongest and most focused collection in a long time; moving his show from Thursday morning at Skylight Clarkson Square, to a scaled down Wednesday evening show outside his iconic Rhinelander Mansion on 72nd Street and Madison Avenue. It was not an easy feat: he apparently had to move heaven and earth to do so (and of course, he prevailed). And bucking with tradition, it was not for spring 2017 but a see now, buy now, wear now show for fall 2016. What season is this anyway? Forget seasonal mood disorders; this is fashion seasonal bi polar and schizophrenia which I guess you can now say are the ‘new’ normal!
But it was signature Ralph in that it was a little bit western and a whole lot urban with its predominance of black; it mixed boy and girl, day and evening, hard and soft, vintage and new. It was luxurious yet gutsy owing to an offhanded rugged, rustic, and artisanal vibe, and best yet, it looked effortless, believable, and desirable (down to the fabulous belts, earrings, chokers). So much so that you wanted to pop right into the beautiful store and shop as soon as the show was over, which was after all, precisely the point of the ‘September Collection’.
Another noticeable change was Marc Jacobs who had always ended fashion week on Thursday evening at the Park Avenue Armory. This time he opted for a 2 pm matinee at the Hammerstein Ballroom on West 34th Street (I guess he liked the space after having attended the CFDA Awards there this past June). By the way, the show began at precisely 2:05 and ended at 2:09 so if you were among those who forgot that he is now early instead of habitually late, you would have missed the whole thing.
What was hard to miss were the hundreds of light bulbs twinkling overhead. Should I take that as a metaphorical symbol that Marc thought he had a ‘bright’ idea for this collection? Since he is a renowned quick change artist, it was obvious it would look completely different from last season. And it did, with the exception of his use of those unwieldy platform shoes and boots. Whereas fall 2016 was all about volume and obscuring the body in generally dark, enormous layers, spring 2017 was shiny, glittery, colorful (there were even retro rainbow stripes which were an obvious homage to the LGBT’s iconic symbol symbol).
It was sporty yet quite dressed up, couture like yet somewhat trashy, and body conscious, sheer, and leggy. There were puff sleeved jackets (with shoulders sometimes decorated with feathers), abbreviated crop tops, cropped narrow trousers, mini dresses, and barely there hot pants (which sometimes flashed beneath belted coats), all accessorized with those funky platforms (which sometimes came in colorful stripes and patchwork leather). Quite frankly, there were several times I had visions of Jodi Foster’s character in the 1976 movie, “Taxi Driver” where she played a teenage hooker.
But as it turns out, it was not Ms. Foster who was the inspiration behind the show, but rather Lana Wachowski the trans director of The Matrix who also appeared in Marc’s Fall 2016 ad campaign. Marc looked to Guido Palau, Redken’s global creative director and celebrated hair stylist in an effort to re-create Lana’s signature pastel colored dreadlocks (which were dyed to mimic the color of the clothes). After doing a Google search, he found Jena Counts whose company Dreadlocks by Jena is based in Florida. She traveled to New York with 12,500 yards of wool dreadlocks in her suitcase and was even put up in a hotel courtesy Marc, in order to be on hand for last minute changes.
While the large majority of designers were clearly focused on clothes befitting the warmer months of spring and summer (like Marc), others seemed to disregard seasons altogether (there is a definite move towards seasonless), and a few others, such as Ralph Lauren and Tom Ford, only hawked fall. Tom kicked off NYFW in high style with a high profile cocktail party and dinner prior to showing his see now, buy now, wear now fall 2016 collection presented before a tightly edited group that included top editors, a list celebrities and several academy award winning stars. He was also the only one to use The Four Seasons Restaurant prior to its undergoing a complete renovation. By the way, given the confusion about seasons these days (or the complete disregard of them), it could not have been more fitting that he chose a venue with the name, The Four Seasons.
Getting back to the ‘old’ (or in this case the “old guard”), 77 year old Carolina Herrera took a decidedly youthful and easy approach to her collection, and she seemed to almost disregard the fact that it was presented in the elegant, grand, stately Frick Museum, and 71 year old Norma Kamali (who just keeps perfecting what she does) proved herself more than worthy of her recent CFDA Lifetime Achievement Award.
And two other venerable American houses will soon benefit from new blood thanks to recent new hirings, the results of which will be unveiled in February for the fall 2017 collections. Of course I’m referring to the appointment of Raf Simons as Chief Creative Officer at Calvin Klein, and Fernando Garcia and Laura Kim (former Oscar de la Renta interns) who will rejoin the company as creative directors. They will still continue with Monse, their label known for a relaxed easy glamour, and its focus on the button down shirt, so I think we can safely assume we will see vestiges of this in their new roles at ODLR.
During the course of the week, there were also strong showings from well-established American talents such as Michael Kors, Narciso Rodriguez, Prabal Gurung, Jason Wu, Derek Lam, Joseph Altuzarra, Yeohlee, Rodarte, Proenza Schouler, Rag & Bone, Tory Burch, Ashley and Mary Kate Olsen for The Row and Elizabeth and James, as well as Thom Browne who alas, is in a class of his own. But quite frankly, we already know what they can do so from my perspective, the more interesting collections and most satisfying moments were staged by the new generation of emerging talents.
Some are admittedly more established and well known than others but none are exactly household names, (and they may be completely unknown to all but fashion insiders): Hood by Air’s Shayne Olivier and Maxwell Osborne and Dao-Yi Chow (the duo behind Public School and DKNY) with their gender bending streetwear; the Protagonist’s Georgia Lazzaro, a Calvin Klein and Narciso Rodriguez alumni whose designs recall the clean all American sportswear of Bonnie Cashin and Claire McCardell; Dion Lee’s elevation of wardrobe basics and his knockout belted coats.
Area’s Beckett Fogg and Piotrek Panszczyk with their sporty yet decadent 60’s and 80’s inspired designs and standout shoes and accessories ; Sies Marjan’s Sander Lak’s fabulous sense of color and his effortless designs that are more often than not draped, wrapped, bias cut; ed sportswear; Baja East’s John Targon and Scott Studenberg, who champion “ambisexual”, laid back luxury; Rosetta Getty’s art inspired collectibles; Gabriela Hearst’s refined tailoring; Colovos’s Nicole and Michael Colovos, who emphasize minimal wardrobe staples; CG’s Chris Gelinas, a Parsons grad whose designs are perfectly proportioned and well fabricated; Eckhaus Latta’s Mike Eckhaus who focuses on well-constructed sturdy, voluminous sportswear separates and outerwear.
The fact that there is nothing ‘new’ under the sun hasn’t kept designers from seeking to re-invent and re interpret old standbys such as denim, sweatshirt dressing and active sportswear, trench coats, trompe l’oeil, graphic stripes, florals. This is especially true with regards to the great white shirt and the entire category of shirt dressing for that matter, which was ubiquitous throughout the collections this season.
|Rag & Bone|
This brings me to the part about ‘borrowed’ and let’s just say that much of what was shown was borrowed from the boys, borrowed from the military, borrowed from the navy, borrowed from the preppies, borrowed from another time, borrowed from another place, borrowed from another designer, or in some cases, borrowed from the designer’s own archives.
And finally, as for the blue. That the late Bill Cunningham, (who was as much known for his royal blue cotton French worker’s jacket as his bicycle and the ever present camera around his neck) seemed to be on many of our minds this past week is hardly surprising given the fact that this is the first NYFW without his presence and he was noticeable by his absence.
In his memory, on the first day of New York Fashion Week, 50 of Bryant Park’s chairs were arranged in a formation representing his 35mm camera and the tops of each chair were covered in blue fabric and tagged with a photo of him to commemorate his relationship to Bryant Park, the previous location of New York Fashion Week, and a locale often featured on his “On the Street” blog.
|Photographers tribute to Bill Cunningham|
And as a mark of respect and a fitting homage to the man who revolutionized street photography, photographers were a sea of blue on that first day; they were all given the same identical blue coats to wear as they began their stints.
I found myself thinking about Bill quite often, and some of his most memorable quotes, which continue to ring true:
“Fashion is the armor to survive everyday life”
(Of course, what qualifies as the perfect ‘armor’ (or uniform) varies and all depends on your needs, your desires, and your moods. But suffice it to say, there was enough variety shown to satisfy everyone, regardless of whether you believe less is more, more is more, are a die-hard preppy, all girl, or a bit of a tomboy. There’s even something for those who firmly believe that “life is just a bowl of cherries”.)
“I’m not interested in celebrities with their free dresses. Look at the clothes, the cut, the silhouette, the colour. It’s the clothes. Not the celebrity and not the spectacle.”
|Street Style photo by Phil Oh|
“The best fashion show is definitely on the street. Always has been. Always will be.”
“He who seeks beauty will find it”
“All the people who tell the truth are in the last rows.” – Bill Cunningham